Following the strike action embarked upon by Abia State Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) since April 10, during which the state court premises have been under lock, preventing entry of workers and people in need of judicial services, the state’s Elections Petitions Tribunal has relocated from the High Court headquarters at Umuahia to Damgrete Hotel also in the state capital.
A report by The Guardian said that during a visit to the hotel located along Factory Road in the Government Reserved Area (GRA), the tribunal workers were busy attending to documents and people believed to be lawyers, petitioners and respondents.
One of the workers told The Guardian that the tribunal relocated to the hotel because there was no access to the high court premises where it was hearing petitions. Asked why the tribunal was not in session, he said that sitting was adjourned to Wednesday, due to the public holidays.
JUSUN listed four grievances for embarking on the strike action as non-confirmation of Justice Lilian Abai as substantive state Chief Judge whose six months acting capacity status would elapse in few days. The judiciary workers said they were also demanding inclusion of their members in the payment of yearly leave allowance as the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, announced to workers on March 10.
Others are payment of JUSUN members, four months Consolidated Judiciary Salary (CONJUS) structure arrears and implementation of Judicial Financial Autonomy by the state government.
Reacting to the development, the state Attorney General/ Commissioner for Justice, Uche Ihediwa, faulted JUSUN on the strike, saying the strike and freezing of state government’s accounts are politically motivated.
He told the newspaper that the state has been thrown into financial crisis by continued refusal of banks to vacate the ex parte order imposed by the Abuja Federal High Court, even after it has vacated the order. Ihediwa added that the strike is an attempt by JUSUN to join the Labour Party’s governorship election victory in the state.
According to him, JUSUN’s four demands are not serious, saying: “Let me say that courts are created to prevent the vacation of ‘Black Market’ ex parte orders issued by some who seek to prevent the state’s council election.”
He said the Acting State Chief Judge, Justice Lilian Abai, has been confirmed as the substantive Chief Judge by the National Judicial Council (NJC) two months ago.
He noted that when the confirmation was taken to the state governor, the letter was referred to the state Assembly, which also has concluded the process of confirmation one month ago, while other logistics that go with formal swearing in were being attended to when JUSUN’s strike set in.
(Courtesy, text, excluding headline: The Guardian)